By Huw Beynon
The New Zealand Breakers are back-to-back champions of the Australian National Basketball League, winning a nail-biting 79-73 over the Perth Wildcats to secure a 2-1 series victory.
Gary Wilkinson top scored for the Breakers, but once again it was the one they call Mr Fourth Quarter who stole the show.
A quiet lunch with family was the perfect recovery for CJ Bruton, as last night’s championship win sunk in.
“We'll enjoy this one just as much as I enjoy every other ride I’ve been on,” says Bruton. “The journey with the boys has been special.”
A calm coffee is a stark contrast to the celebrations last night.
If anyone deserved a drink after the 79-73 win, it was Bruton.
“He's a freak,” says Breakers guard Daryl Corletto. “He's definitely a freak. I watched him do that for 10 years, even longer, so to finally be on his team and witness that is something truly amazing.”
In a typically feisty encounter, neither the Breakers nor the Wildcats could create a buffer on the scoreboard.
The first three quarters certainly didn't have the quality of game one and one, as nerves seem to take hold.
The tension took hold in the final quarter, when Bruton's big three pointers gave the Breakers some breathing space. But the Wildcats weren't going home without a fight.
But with just four points in it, it was a defensive play that sealed the game, and the championship.
“Last year was pretty special, but when you go back-to-back that is bloody hard to do,” says Dillon Boucher. “Little old New Zealand playing in the Australian comp, that’s special. We're not finished yet we're going for the three peat. We're going out to win three in a row.”
While recognising it was a team effort, The Breakers were quick to heap praise on their 36-year-old veteran Bruton, who became the oldest ever finals MVP.